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Fine in Lingerie: Lingerie #11 by Penelope Sky (1)

One

Mia

I sat on the couch in my sweatpants and t-shirt, careful to look as unappealing as possible.

But that didn’t seem to make a difference when Carter walked around in just his sweatpants all the time. I tried to seem as unattractive as I could, but since he showed off his godly figure all the time, it was impossible for me not to think of him in that way.

He had a bottle of scotch on the table and helped himself to it all night while he watched the evening news.

I couldn’t understand a word of it, so I lay there under the blanket and tried to pick up on the language. Small luxuries like TV weren’t important to me anymore because I’d lived without it for so long. Egor kept me in a dark room constantly. I wasn’t even left at liberty to pee.

Carter picked up the remote and changed the channel. “I have a few American channels. You like comedies?”

“I like English.”

He turned on a popular sitcom in America, a show I used to watch growing up. The second I heard English, I felt a little better, a little closer to him.

He tossed the remote on the table and returned to drinking. The large window behind him showed the grounds around his house, all cast in darkness with the exception of the evening lights that made the yard visible from the inside.

He hadn’t tried to make a move on me since that moment in the kitchen. The second I said no, he listened, which was surprising since he accused me of lying about what I really wanted. But I still had power in this situation.

Power to say no.

It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world, to say something and actually be heard. I missed my former life. I missed everything about how perfect it was. I missed the small freedoms I once had.

All those things had been taken from me.

But Carter gave some of them back.

If I really tried to escape, I was taking a gamble. If I just left it alone, I could have a comfortable life here. I was a prisoner, but at least I had some liberty. If I crossed him, he would make good on his threats and change the dynamic. I wouldn’t have the same power I did before. As long as I remained cooperative, my life could be bearable.

I would settle for it if I could…but that wasn’t possible.

“Would you like something to drink?” He picked up the bottle for me to see.

“No thanks.” I’d never been into hard alcohol. A glass of wine with dinner was nice, but nothing more than that. Carter drank all the time, starting after lunchtime. I’d noticed he hadn’t left the house much, seeming to do all of his work from home.

He refilled his glass and kept drinking.

“You drink a lot but never seem drunk.”

He set his glass down and looked at the TV. “Because I’m always drunk. You’ve never seen me sober.”

“Is it healthy to drink that much?”

He shrugged. “Is it healthy to worry?”

I could be quiet and watch TV, but I found him more interesting. He was an enigma, his motives unclear. He wanted to fuck me, but he wouldn’t actually go through with it until I gave my consent…unless I broke his rules. He allowed me to visit most of the house, to eat whenever I wanted, and enjoy his pool. Never did he speak down to me or raise a hand to me. He seemed like a very sexy roommate. “Do you have a girlfriend?”

He turned back to me, his right eyebrow arched so high it nearly jumped off his face. “No. If I did, I wouldn’t be pressing my dick into your ass.”

“So, you don’t have a girlfriend right now.”

“I’ve never had a girlfriend. Do I strike you as the romantic type?” His eyes bored into mine, like he was offended by the question. “My sex life is one meaningless lay after another. Good sex with beautiful women is my game. Nothing more.”

“So you’re just like every other handsome man out there?”

“Meaning?”

“The good ones never settle until the last minute. They have too many options, so they can’t make up their minds. But once they turn a certain age and their looks fade away, they find someone they like and finally settle down.”

“Close,” he said. “But I genuinely have no interest in settling down.”

“Not ever?”

“No.” His eyes moved back to the TV. “I have a sister who will have children, so my family line will continue. My cousin carries my last name, and he has a kid on the way, so my surname will outlive me. I don’t need to have children.”

“You don’t like children?” I asked, unsure if I wanted to hear the answer.

He shook his head. “I wouldn’t say that. I just don’t want any of my own. My cousin is about to have his first child, so I’ll be an uncle. That’s enough for me.”

I stared at him, pitying him. I could understand a man not wanting to settle with one woman, but not to have children was heartbreaking. Having a family was a blessing. Having someone to love with your whole heart was…indescribable. “It’s a shame.”

“I disagree.” When he looked at me, it was with a twinge of hostility. “Don’t judge me. Don’t think you’re better than me. I know what I want out of life. You were the one stupid enough to get captured.”

Within the snap of a finger, the peacefulness I felt sitting there with him faded away. I used to tolerate him, even like him, but that comment hurt far too much. He sliced a knife over a scar that hadn’t healed yet. He stabbed me in the heart even though my heart was already broken.

He must have realized what he said, because he winced slightly then sighed, his eyes on the TV.

I kicked off the blanket and stormed up the stairs, no longer interested in talking to him. Maybe I’d misjudged him. Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed he had some good qualities. I should have assumed he was an asshole—just like my gut told me.

He followed me a moment later. “Mia—”

I reached the top of the staircase then turned around to look at him. “I’m not the one who bought some woman with cash to boost my ego. I’m not the one who keeps her as a prisoner even though she deserves to be free. I’m not the mama’s boy who pretends to be a good man, only to turn around and keep an innocent person against their will. Yes, I am better than you, Carter. I’m so much better than you.”

He paused halfway up the staircase, listening to my speech with unblinking eyes. When he stepped up the stairs, his muscles shifted and moved under the skin. His eyes were full of pity, as if he genuinely cared about the way he made me feel.

“A real man doesn’t need to force a woman on her back. He should be able to bed her without force.”

“And have I forced you?” His deep voice echoed against the vaulted ceiling.

“But you force me to live here without a purpose.”

“You cook and clean—”

“Go fuck yourself.” I turned around on my heel and stormed into my bedroom. I slammed the door behind me, hoping he wouldn’t follow me inside. I would rather stare at the wall in my room then look at his handsome face another second.

The door opened a second later. “Mia—”

“You should be fucking yourself. I gave very specific orders.” I sat on the floor at the foot of the bed, my back against the wooden frame.

“I’ll do that later tonight before I go to sleep.” He lowered himself to the spot on the ground beside me, keeping a few feet in between us.

I hated myself for feeling slightly hot at that information. I even pictured him going to town on himself, sitting up against his headboard while he rubbed lube up and down his dick. I imagined him picturing me, not watching porn on his computer.

“I take back what I said. It was an asshole thing to say.”

“Because you are an asshole.” With my arms crossed over my chest, I stared straight ahead at the wall in front of me. I could smell him beside me, a mixture of shampoo, shaving cream, and cologne. He had a distinct scent, like leather and oak.

“I don’t disagree with that. I just hate it when people get on my case about not wanting a family.”

“Who gets on your case about it?”

“My mother.” He faced forward, looking at the same wall. “She says I’m getting old. Instead of fucking around, I need to focus on finding a nice woman who will put up with me, who wants me for me and not my money. And she wants me to have my own family…because having me is the greatest joy she’s ever known.” He shook his head slightly. “My father and I have a different kind of relationship. We’re close, but we talk about other things like guns, sports, work, stuff like that. But when my mom talks to me about stuff, she has this special way of making me feel guilty. So when I tell her I don’t want a family…she looks so heartbroken. Now you’re giving me shit about it, and I just get defensive. Doesn’t give me the right to say that to you…so, I’m sorry.” He didn’t look at me, not the way he did earlier. Sometimes he was aggressive and intense, filling the entire room with silent hostility. At other times, he seemed like a nice guy…like now.

“I wasn’t judging you. I just wanted you to know that having children is a wonderful experience. You shouldn’t write it off as something you don’t want…not when you don’t understand how great it can be.”

“Women always think having children will be this wonderful experience. Well, I can tell you that my mother had one hell of a time raising me. Stealing the car in the middle of the night, sneaking girls up to my room, taking my father’s gun without permission… I did a lot of crazy shit when I was growing up. Nearly gave my mother a heart attack a few times.”

I kept staring at the wall, doing my best to keep my breathing under control. Tears burned deep behind my eyes, making my throat constrict painfully. My hands came together, and I rubbed my palms against one another, fidgeting in place so I would have something to do. Heartbreak welled up inside me, and it was almost enough to make me fall apart.

Carter kept looking forward, oblivious to the emotions that raged deep inside me.

I couldn’t sit with him anymore. I couldn’t pretend to be okay when I wasn’t. Now there was no possibility of me staying here. Even if Carter’s apology was sincere, I had to get out of here. Regardless of the consequences, I had to escape. I belonged somewhere else. Just because I’d been unlucky enough to be captured didn’t mean I should remain a prisoner forever. Even if I died trying, I was going to get out of here.

I had to.

Now that I’d made my decision, I searched for every opportunity.

Carter woke up at the same time every day, whether it was by an alarm clock or naturally. He had his coffee and breakfast in the dining room, read the newspaper, took some phone calls, and then he went for a run around his property before he hit the gym near the garage. That was when he turned off the alarm system.

When he was in the garage, I did a quick sweep of the house, searching for weapons taped underneath the tables or hidden behind picture frames. I searched every corner of the house, taking advantage of the times when I knew he would be distracted.

But he wiped the place clean.

The only weapons in the house were the knives in the kitchen. Before I slipped out, I would take the biggest steak knife I could find. I didn’t want to use it on Carter, but if he didn’t give me a choice, I would stab him right in the heart.

This was about survival. I wasn’t going to stop until I was the victor.

I had a phone that couldn’t do anything besides make phone calls to Carter, but it did have a camera. I purposely set it up on the kitchen counter behind one of the crocks that held the spatulas and spoons. I hid the other part of the phone behind the salt and pepper shakers, allowing the camera a full view of the alarm pad. After charging the phone all night and making sure it had enough battery, I kept the camera on and recorded everything in the kitchen.

Then I did my best to pretend it was a normal day.

I made pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs. I slid everything onto the plate just when Carter walked into the kitchen. Shirtless and barefoot, he walked inside with his kissable tanned skin. His hair was messy from running his fingers through it. Deep brown eyes looked into me, looking me up and down with obvious interest. After our fight the other evening, he’d returned to normal, not disguising the things he wished he could do to me. “Can I get you anything?”

He grabbed the coffee pot and refilled his mug. “More coffee.”

I faced forward again, sprinkling the powdered sugar on top along with the maple syrup. The alarm pad was behind me, the buttons lit up with blue light. The camera was tucked away on the counter, hidden behind the kitchen gear. The red light was on in the front, but I put a piece of tape over it to hide the glow. A part of me felt guilty for what I was doing, but the guilt also made me feel worse.

I shouldn’t feel guilty.

He turned around and leaned against the counter, sipping from his mug while he watched me.

I could feel his stare at the nape of my neck, feel his desire fill the room. He had a natural way of occupying the entire space with his intensity, of bringing an invisible cloud into the room. It was suffocating, like high humidity in the middle of August. “I’m almost done.”

“Take your time.” He kept sipping his coffee, one hand resting on the counter.

I continued to wear the same stoic expression, focusing on my hands. I arranged the pieces of bacon along with the eggs. Normally, he took egg whites and fruit, but today, he seemed to splurge a little more.

My heart was beating so fast. I could hear the pounding in my ears, and I hoped he couldn’t hear it too. I wasn’t just unnerved by this beautiful man’s stare. I was unnerved by the possibility of him discovering my plan. If he did, all of this would be over.

I cleared my throat and carried his plate into the dining room. Instead of following me, he stayed behind. I set down his silverware and hoped he would join me, but he never did. I breathed a little harder, afraid he’d noticed the phone hidden behind the crock. I turned around and walked back into the kitchen, seeing him at the counter still, over six feet of carved muscle and tanned skin.

His eyes followed my movements.

What was going on? “I just put your breakfast down.”

He sipped his coffee again.

Now I really was terrified. Did he know what I was doing?

He held his mug at his waist, licking his lips as he looked at me.

I tossed the garbage, doing my best to ignore him. If I acted innocent, then he would have no reason to be suspicious of me.

He finally headed toward the dining room. “I want you to join me.” Then he walked out, his footsteps growing quiet as he rounded the corner.

When he was gone, I finally released the air I was storing in my lungs. When he was intense like that, hovering and staring, I didn’t have a clue what he was thinking. All I could do was wait and hope my paranoia was the only threat in the room.

I put food on my plate then joined him in the dining room.

Instead of looking at his phone like he usually did, all of his attention was focused on me. He sat at the head of the table, his elbows resting on the tablecloth. He stabbed his eggs before placing them in his mouth, but he didn’t watch his movements because he was looking at me so intently.

“Yes?” I kept my eyes downcast, refusing to meet his gaze and solidify the connection between us.

“I didn’t say a word.”

“But you’re staring at me.”

“I have to look at something, right?” He placed another piece of food into his mouth. He chewed it with his strong jaw, the muscles in his face working together as he moved. Even the cords in his neck shifted at the movements. He made the most rudimentary movements undeniably sexy.

“There’s a window right there.” I nodded to the large window that overlooked the front of his house. “And a beautiful landscape to boot.”

“True.” He glanced outside at the lawn before he looked at me again. “But I prefer this beautiful landscape.” He returned to eating, watching me with his searing gaze that could melt panties right off a pair of hot legs.

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end, but I brushed off his comment. “What a line.”

“I don’t have lines. I say what I want. Sometimes it gets me laid. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

“Are you trying to get laid?” I countered.

He set his fork down and sent me a harder expression than he had before. “I’ve been trying to get between your legs from the second I bought you, the instant I saw your naked body on that stage. Your tits are unbelievable. Your face becomes even more beautiful when you’re pissed at me. I wonder how beautiful it looks when you’re coming around my fat dick.”

My nipples hardened under my shirt, and I did my best to remain indifferent to his words. My fork stabbed the eggs on my plate, and I kept my gaze averted, trying to play the part. But my breathing quickened noticeably. My thighs tightened together under the table, but thankfully, he couldn’t see that. This beautiful man made me feel the kind of desire I hadn’t felt in years, but I refused to act on it.

“Mia.”

I stared at my plate as I chewed.

“Mia.” He repeated my name, this time with a deeper tone. Whenever he said my name, it sounded innately sexy on my ears. “Look at me, or I’ll make you look at me.”

I finally lifted my gaze, pretending not to care about anything he said.

“Let me have you.”

I held his gaze, doing my best to look angry rather than aroused. When I couldn’t hold his stare any longer, I turned back to my food. “I don’t sleep with men who buy women like livestock…at least, not voluntarily.”

“Then why do you want to fuck me?”

“Who said I did?”

“Not your mouth. But your eyes certainly say you do.”

I didn’t care if he was right. I didn’t care if he was sexy and confident. This man was standing in the way of my freedom, and I wouldn’t let him become an obstacle. If I did sleep with him, he would only hold on to me tighter. It would make it harder to escape. It would make it harder for me to want to escape. Living with him had been a vacation compared to the hell I was used to. It would be easy to get comfortable and never leave. “You’re confusing arousal with hatred.”

“Who says you can’t have both?” He leaned closer to me over the table, invading my personal space as usual. His hand slid to the back of my elbow where his fingers lightly touched me. He glanced at my lips before my eyes, his desire dancing on the surface of his eyes.

I pulled my arm away, getting away from his touch. “You could bed any woman you want. Don’t waste your time with me.”

“I don’t want any woman. I want you.”

I turned back to him, seeing the sincerity written around his muscular jaw. He wanted to kiss me again, this time not on the neck. He wanted to kiss me everywhere, to explore my body with his mouth. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why me?” I asked.

The corner of his mouth rose in a smile, like the question amused him. “Look at you.” His hand moved into my hair, his fingers lightly tucking the strands behind my ear. He was gentle with me, just like the last time he touched me. Unlike Egor, he didn’t possess evil cruelty. He glanced at my lips again. “Those soft lips. The sass that flies out of them.” His eyes moved to my right cheek. “These rose petal cheeks.” He dragged the backs of his fingers across my skin. “The little freckles I would love to kiss. Those brown eyes…like my hot coffee in the morning.” His hand moved to my neck next, gripping me delicately. “That thick hair I want to fist. You’re exquisite, Mia. Fucking exquisite.” His fingers moved to my chin, and he directed his gaze on me. “You’ve got a backbone made of steel. I don’t know anyone else who would jump out of a speeding car and run. I don’t know anyone else who would dare insult a man like me. I don’t know anyone else who could have endured what you have but still hold your head high. I’ll say it again…fucking exquisite.” He dropped his hand but kept his grip on me with his eyes. “Those scars on your back… I’m not going to lie. I like them. The idea of hurting you gets me hard. I know you can handle it, which makes me want you more.”

His touch aroused me, and I hated the way he could make me feel just by looking at me. Egor had done terrible things to me, and even though Carter admitted he wanted to hurt me, I knew the two men weren’t comparable. If Carter really were cruel, he would chain me up and do whatever he wanted. But he never crossed that line…always giving me the power to say yes or no.

Right now, he wanted me to say yes.

I respected him for giving me rights. In the cold world we lived in, any form of kindness was appreciated. My expectations of men had declined over the years. Despite the fact that Carter had bought me, he exceeded my expectations.

“Let me hurt you.” His eyes focused on my face, taking in my features with authority. He continued to give me a choice even though he didn’t want to. It was like he hated himself for giving me any kind of rights.

“You want to hurt me,” I whispered. “I want to be free. Let’s make an exchange.”

He sat back in his chair, withdrawing his heat. He cocked his head to the side slightly, prepared to listen to my pitch.

“I’ll be what you want me to be…if you let me go.”

He released a quiet breath with his nostrils flared.

“I’ll do what you want. I’ll let you do what you want. Whatever it is. If you let me go when you’re finished.” I didn’t want to be whipped until I bled. I didn’t want to be choked until I passed out. I didn’t want to be in pain anymore. But with Carter, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make…to be free.

He said nothing, his jaw clenched tightly.

“Carter.”

“I told you I would never let you go.”

“And I’m never going to fuck you…willingly.”

His eyebrows slowly furrowed, his anger filling the room. A shadow passed across the window, making it darker in the room. His rage was palpable. Like a king who had just been defied, he was planning the best execution.

“This is the only way you get what you want. Just let me go. You’re going to get bored with me eventually. I won’t tell anyone you bought me…if you’ll just let me be free.”

He shook his head slightly. “There is one other way.”

“What?” I asked, confused.

“If you try to escape. If you break your rule, I can break mine too.”

My heart started to race again.

“I’m not stupid, Mia. I know you’ll make your move eventually. Take this as a friendly warning. When you try, you won’t get away. I’ll be as cruel as your previous master. I will open those old wounds and drain you of all your blood. But if you take me now…I’ll be kind. I’ll be gentle. You’ll always have the power to ask me to stop, to ask me to be gentler. I’ll make you come—all night long. You will enjoy it as much as I do. You may be strong and smart…but you’ll never match me. I’m an opponent you can’t defeat. So, think about it…and make the right decision.”

Carter was right. I had underestimated him.

He gave me another option, but since that option didn’t give me what I wanted, I couldn’t take it.

Despite the threat he’d unleashed, I couldn’t let it deter me. I had to get out of here.

I retrieved my phone from behind the crock in the kitchen then carried it into my room to take a look. I played the video and fast-forwarded it to the moment when Carter entered the code into the alarm system.

I got it.

I got all five numbers and the pound key.

I had the code to escape this place.

A light of hope shone from my heart, and it was the first time I’d felt excitement in the last three years. I’d accomplished something I didn’t think was possible. I had the code to turn off the alarm. If I left while he was asleep, I would be hours ahead of him. He wouldn’t notice until the following morning, and by then, I could be anywhere.

And if I took one of his cars and crashed it into a lake, he wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for me.

I could run and disappear. Once he stopped searching for me, I could reveal myself again.

But then I remembered one little flaw in my plan.

The tracker.

It was embedded in my ankle, deep underneath the scar tissue.

I didn’t have any other choice. I would have to cut it out.

There would be so much blood, so much pain. It would be disgusting, staining the bed all the way down to the mattress. I didn’t know how to do stitches, and even if I did, I doubt he had the supplies. I would have to bandage it up as best as I could before I fled.

I didn’t want to do it.

But I had to.

I had to do whatever was necessary to get out of there.

And finally go home.

I made dinner that night, a mixed green salad with chicken and rice. Carter had someone drop off groceries at the house, and I was told to make meals based on what was brought. I worked in the kitchen, roasting the chicken in the oven while I perfected the rice on the stove. I used to cook at home all the time. It was a regular part of my life. When I was stuck with Egor, all those everyday luxuries were taken from me. It was nice to be in the kitchen, nice to cook a meal I could actually enjoy.

Carter was in the living room, watching TV, shirtless like always. He enjoyed his scotch, a nighttime ritual he’d done every single evening since I’d arrived. If he didn’t have such a strong hold on his faculties, I would be concerned by how much he drank. He could hold his liquor better than anyone else I knew, even Egor.

I eyed the sharp steak knife sitting on the counter. With a razor edge and made of stainless steel, it was the perfect instrument to remove the tracker from my ankle. It would be painful, but since I’d found a stash of bandages in the downstairs bathroom, I should be able to make it work.

I just had to sneak it into my room.

Carter had stopped locking me in my bedroom a week ago, confident that the tracker and alarm system would be enough to keep me inside. His bedroom and office were locked, so there was no way I could get to him.

Unless I burned the house down.

That wasn’t the worst idea…except I didn’t want to kill him.

I shouldn’t care about granting him mercy just because he wasn’t evil like Egor. He wouldn’t rape me, but he wouldn’t give me my freedom either. There might be different degrees of evil, but at the end of the day, it was still evil in its most basic form.

It shouldn’t matter that I found him attractive…despite everything I’d been through.

But I still couldn’t do it.

I finished dinner then set the plates on the coffee table in the living room. In the morning, Carter liked to sit at the dining table, but in the evening, he liked to sit in front of the TV. For most of the day, he was either on the phone, working out, or taking care of things in his office. I hadn’t seen him leave once, with the exception of a family emergency.

I wondered if he would ever leave.

It would make my plan easier. I could do all of this when he was out of the house, rather than if he was asleep. But since I had no idea when that would happen, I didn’t want to wait a day longer than I had to.

Carter’s eyes watched my movements as I set the plate in front of him. “This looks good.”

“Thanks.” I sat on the other couch with my plate, enjoying a glass of wine since I would need it for the pain I was about to self-induce.

Instead of digging in, he kept looking at me. Egor always infected my space with his disgusting touch. Carter could do it with just a look. An intense and deep gaze that made my skin prickle and form bumps.

I ignored him, pretending his penetrating stare didn’t affect me as much as it really did.

He finally turned to his food and started eating. Even when he was hunched forward over his food, his stomach was still rigid with his tight abs. His tanned skin was firm everywhere, covering thick and powerful muscles. He cut into his food and took a bite. “Tastes as good as it looks.”

“Thank you.”

“I wonder if you taste as good as you look.”

I refused to look at him, telling myself this would be my last night with him. Even if a part of me wanted to stay here, to have a comfortable life cooking and cleaning, I couldn’t stay. I had a life waiting for me.

“Hopefully, I won’t have to wonder for long.”

I took a bite and chewed. “You know what I think?”

“Tell me.” He drank his scotch. “I find that smart mouth as appealing as the rest of you.”

I brushed off his words, annoyed with myself that I found his asshole comments charming. “I think you only want me because you can’t have me. I’m just an object, a prize. Another notch on your belt. I’m something you can collect, something that can boost your ego. Since I don’t want you, it shakes your confidence. Now getting between my legs is a matter of pride. Why else won’t you force me? Because it’s a game to you. The point doesn’t count if you cheat.”

Instead of being angry about what I said, he released a quiet chuckle. “Your rejection doesn’t shake my confidence. And your rejection doesn’t make me want you more. Regardless of your attraction to me, you’ve suffered a great deal. Why would any woman who’s experienced those things want to spread her legs ever again? No, the reason I want you is simply because I want you, because I admire your fire, your bravery, and your endurance. From head to toe, I find you beautiful. From the scars on your back to your perfectly soft lips, I think you’re a very desirable woman. Trust me, I’m not the kind of man who goes for women in this situation. I may pay for sex from time to time, but that’s only because whores are kinkier. I never thought I would be attracted to someone like you, when I’ve bedded all kinds of women—from virgins who wanted me to be their first, to women who wanted me to fuck them in the ass. You don’t fit my palate at all. I’ve never been into slaves. But that doesn’t change anything. I want you, Mia.”

I believed every word he said because his actions proved it. He wouldn’t respect my rights otherwise. But there was something missing from his explanation. “I’m not a slave. I’m a prisoner—big difference. And if you don’t like prisoners, why did you buy me?”

He turned back to his scotch and took a long drink. “I already answered you.”

“Just to piss off someone?” I asked incredulously. “Sounds like more work than it’s worth.”

“I don’t know about that… I get to look at your every day.” He picked up his fork and started to eat again. “You cook for me. You clean for me. And I think I’m going to start having you wear lingerie while you do all those things.”

“I’m not wearing lingerie.”

His authoritative gaze turned back to me. “Pick your battles, sweetheart. Because you won’t win them all.”

The threat was clear, and I knew he would make good on his word if I pushed him. If I wanted to keep my legs closed, I would have to comply in other ways. My temper naturally flared, but I kept it reined in, knowing it was better to remain silent.

He went back to eating, his eyes turning to the TV.

I hoped the hostility for the evening had departed. A few hours after he was asleep, I would make my move. I would cut out the tracker from my ankle, turn off the alarm, and take off in one of his cars.

I would be free.

So I shut my mouth and ate my dinner in silence.

I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen before I went to bed. Carter walked up the stairs before me, so I slipped the knife into the back pocket of my jeans and covered the handle with my shirt. I walked up the stairs a moment later, seeing his bedroom closed at the end of the hall.

I walked into mine and shut the door behind me.

I’d done it.

I pulled out the knife and slipped it under the sheets of my bed. There was no lock on my bedroom door, not from the inside. So I quickly stashed the knife away just in case Carter came back to say anything else.

I passed the time by lying in bed with the knife beside me, staring at the ceiling as the night deepened. Carter had never burst into my bedroom in the middle of the night, but I wanted to play the part just in case his behavior was different. The more I rejected him, the more he pursued me. He might take it a step further and come into my bedroom unannounced, naked and hard.

There was a clock on my nightstand, so I kept glancing at it, waiting for the time to pass.

Waiting until three a.m. seemed to take a lifetime.

Carter was usually awake before eight in the morning, so he had to be asleep by one at the latest. But I waited a few extra hours to make sure he was asleep before I made my move.

When three a.m. arrived, I finally got to work.

My heart was beating hard in terror. Panic was heavy in my throat, and my breath came out shaky despite how hard I worked to stay calm. My hands were shaking, both from fear and excitement. The thought of breaking free tonight gave me a kind of high I couldn’t come down from. It was what I wanted more than anything in the world. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away from me.

That wasn’t an option.

I pulled a stack of towels to the bedside and prepared for the first step.

Removing the tracker.

I’d never done anything like this in my life. My fingers felt exactly where the tracker was under the skin, the definitive shape it made when I pressed my fingers down. It wasn’t very big, so it should be easy to remove—if I cut myself in the right way.

I was scared of what might happen, but I reminded myself I’d been through worse—at Egor’s hands. He’d whipped me until I bled all over the bed. He’d punched me in the face when I resisted him. He even broke my leg when I slapped him. There was nothing I could do to myself that would hurt more than that.

So I held my breath and did it.

It hurt like a bitch. There was blood everywhere. But I kept calm and finished the procedure, setting the small tracker on the bed beside me. I bandaged myself up and ignored the pain shooting up my leg. There was a possibility of an infection, but when I was free, I could visit a doctor to get what I needed.

Now, I had to move.

I placed the pillows under the sheet to make it look like I was still sleeping there. I placed the tracker there too, just in case he checked my coordinates randomly. I tossed the bloody towels into the bathroom then crept into the hallway.

His bedroom door was still shut.

The hallway was dark because all the lights were still out. I didn’t risk turning them on and gripped the wooden rail to guide myself down to the bottom floor. Without breathing and with small movements, I descended without making the wooden steps creak. When I reached the first floor, I made my way to the kitchen.

The alarm pad was outlined in blue light, each of the buttons easily visible in the darkness. I’d memorized the five-digit code he entered yesterday, so I typed in the code without having to check twice. There was always a possibility he’d changed it since yesterday, but I took the gamble.

The alarm gave a slight beep before it was turned off.

Yes.

I knew where his garage was even though I’d never been inside. My inspection of the house had left me empty-handed in regard to his car keys. I had no idea where he left them. They were nowhere in the house, and unless he took them to his bedroom, there was only one place they could be.

In the garage.

I opened the door and stepped inside the large garage. I flicked on the lights, revealing six different sports cars. Two were black, two were red, one was blue, and another yellow.

I grinned, tasting freedom on my tongue. I didn’t even notice the pain in my ankle or the blood dripping down my foot. Now that I’d gotten this far, there was nothing that was going to stop me.

The hardest part was over.

I hit the garage button, so the large door slowly rose and revealed the front driveway.

I could see the stars. Could feel the breeze. Could smell summer in the air. It was so quiet I could hear myself breathe, hear my loud heartbeat. My hands shook slightly, either from the loss of blood or from the rush of excitement.

On the wall hung six different sets of keys.

Perfect.

All the cars were in a row, one next to another, so I needed the keys to one of the last two, the two farthest from the house so it would be quieter. They were all the same make, so I couldn’t figure out which key belonged to which. Based on the order in which the keys hung, either the first set of keys was to one of the last two cars, or it was the opposite.

I grabbed the last set of keys and hit the unlock button.

The horn sounded and the lights flashed. It was the last car in the row, the one closest to the driveway.

Thank god.

The sound was a bit loud, but since Carter was on the other side of the house with the door shut, I doubted he heard it. I opened the driver’s door and got inside. The keys didn’t slide into the ignition because everything was electronic. I hit the start button and pressed the brake, waiting for the engine to roar to life.

Nothing happened.

I tried a few more times, knowing I was doing everything right.

It still didn’t work.

“What the hell?” I started to hit everything, to put my foot on the gas instead. No matter what I pressed, the engine never came on. It couldn’t be this difficult to start a car, but nothing I did worked.

Shit.

Taking off in the car made more sense, but if that wasn’t an option, I would go on foot.

I’d made it this far, and a stupid car wasn’t going to stop me.

I opened the door and got out.

A hand flew out of the darkness and grabbed me by the neck. I was pushed up against the car, my tits hitting the door. My hands smacked against the windows, and the air was squeezed from my lungs.

My hands were yanked behind my back, like a police officer arresting a fugitive. One of his large hands held my wrists together, while his other hand continued to grip the back of my neck. His powerful chest pushed against me, his hard dick pressing through his sweatpants and into my jeans. He breathed into my ear, his words menacing. “You broke my rule.” He squeezed my neck a little tighter, making me struggle to breathe.

I stared at the wall of the garage, the adrenaline pounding in my ears. I hadn’t seen him in the garage. I’d had no idea he was coming. I really thought I’d outsmarted him, that I was just minutes away from freedom. It was a mistake to defy him, to think I could actually outwit him on his own property.

But I didn’t regret it, regardless of what happened next.

His lips brushed against the shell of my ear. “Now I get to break mine.”

He was too heavy and strong for me to fight. My hands were compromised, and my throat was at his mercy. My ankle continued to bleed, and now the pain was excruciating. All the hope that had once burned in my heart was now gone. I’d never felt so defeated, felt so much self-loathing. Escape had never really been an option. It had always been a fantasy. “Please let me go. You’re a good man.”

“I’ve never given you a reason to believe I am. I wanted you to break my rule, tricked you into thinking you could actually get away. Would a good man do that?” He kept talking into my ear, his thick dick pressing right against my ass.

“Please…” This couldn’t be the end. I would never stop trying. Never stop trying to get back to where I belonged.

“I told you this once, and I’ll tell you again.” He yanked on my hands, forcing my shoulders to stretch back uncomfortably. His arm circled across my throat, and he put me in a one-arm chokehold, having complete control over my body. “Never. I’ll never let you go.”

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